converse is one of the oldest, most popular, and all-time best sneaker brands around. The footwear style has been reigning since 1917, playing a significant role in pop culture. Commonly known as “Chucks”, the Converse All Star was originally designed as a basketball shoe in the 1900s, where they were worn exclusively by athletes.
Still, the soft cotton and rubber-soled style have remained untapped for the last century, making them a statement piece for many. In fact, Chucks are considered to be more popular off the court today than ever before, probably because they bring a versatile style that’s ideal for anyone.
Today, the shoes are worn by artists, musicians, and hipsters. Even celebs have been known to rock a pair of chucks, probably for that chic grunge look on the red carpet.
Simply put, Converse shoes are called “Chucks” because they are named after Charles “Chuck” Taylor. The Chuck Taylor All-Stars were the first celebrity-endorsed basketball shoe. However, despite being one of the most popular labels in the b-ball footwear niche, not much is actually known about the man who these sneakers were named after.
So, who exactly is Chuck Taylor, and why is this famous basketball shoe named after him?
Converse ‘Chucks” Early Years
The Converse story began in 1908 when Marquis Mills founded Converse Rubber Company. Later in 1917, the company developed the forerunner of the modern All-Star shoe, which was marketed as “Non-Skid”. This was the first outset of the Converse All-Star, which began as an elite basketball shoe in its original canvas and rubber construction.
It’s good to note that the All-Star was the first basketball shoe mass-produced in North America. It was composed of a thick rubber sole and an ankle covering canvas (and sometimes leather) upper.
In late 1920, Chuck Taylor, real name Charles Hollis Taylor, came into Converse Rubber Company complaining about his sore feet due to wearing the All-Stars while playing. During this time, he was playing for The Akron Firestones. He was also a professional coach and traveled the world to teach basketball techniques, though it’s said that his training advice wasn’t always the best.
Within a year of his arrival, the company had adopted his suggestions in the shoe design. They improved the flexibility and support of the shoe and incorporated a star on the ankle patch to make it more unique and attractive.
The company started producing all its shoes employing the ideas given by Chuck. During this time, the sales of Converse wasn’t at a high level, but with suggestions provided by Chuck Taylor, the demand for better shoes gradually increased.
Converse Rubber Company thought it would be great if Chuck promoted the new models that were redesigned as per his ideas. His name in the football industry at that time would make it easier for the company to secure a market presence, considering that all players would come to know about the new and better shoes, which were developed purposely for sports.
In 1932, the company included a distinctive All-Star logo on the circular patch safeguarding the ankle as Chuck Taylor’s endorsement. With Taylor’s signature added to the ankle patch as his endorsement, the shoes gained massive popularity as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. That’s how Chuck’s name came into existence with the Converse shoe company.
Chuck’s Story as a Salesman
While Chuck was also known for his unique marketing ideas and clever pith, he made it easier for the Converse Rubber Company to gain a market existence in the field of sports. No other footwear companies compete with the style and market recognition that the company had gained. Converse Runner Company was later renamed and known as Converse Inc.
Chuck served the company for quite a long and with full determination and dedication. Perhaps this is why Converse Inc, in turn, decided to make a significant change to its initial design by incorporating Chuck’s name/signature to the shoe.
Till the 1960s, Converse remained as the leading footwear company by producing “Chucks”. Chuck Taylor was later rewarded and was honored as the “Ambassador to Basketball”, which also progressed Chucks’ popularity.
After getting the name “Chuck” and winning hearts in b-ball, Converse shoes were now taking over the fashion industry. At this time, Nike had started to emerge with new designs and technologies, and people began to get attracted to it.
This gave Chucks room to venture into other markets, where musicians in the punk movement were now adopting them. Also, Chucks were considered an excellent alternative for those who did not want to spend higher amounts on a pair that delivered almost the same comfort soul.
Rather than diversifying their products, Converse Inc began producing Chucks in different colors and designs as they had already gained market recognition. The Chucks are currently making the same impact on the music industry as they did on the basketball court. These shoes are now worn by famous hip-hop stars and rock stars due to their versatility.
Nike Takes Over Converse
Despite the massive popularity of the Chuck Taylors, Converse’s business was falling, leaving the company with multiple claims of bankruptcy. As a result, Nike Inc acquired Converse for $305 million and revived the industry. Converse is now the subsidiary of Nike. Nike took over Converse manufacturing overseas, where most Nike products are produced to lower the cost of production and lift Converse profits.
However, Converse did not cease the production of its beloved shoes as the Chuck Taylors High-top, and Low-top remained popular. They kept introducing more silhouettes with the same ankle patch and Chucks Taylor’s name on it. In fact, Converse released a Chuck Taylor collection inspired by Andy Warhol.
Not to forget that the Chuck Taylor Low-top was the best selling sneaker in the US in 2017. The shoe budget price plays a huge role in its popularity, while the marketing and history of the sneaker as a facet of pop culture give it staying power.